My dear friends I spoke to a man tonight who had been a millionaire three times and had lost it all to drink and drugs.
The grip that Satan had had over him was so powerful that if he had carried on trapped by the addictions he would not be with us right now.
But I tell you something truly amazing happened, he encountered the living God he encountered Jesus Christ and at the foot of the cross he poured out his sins and do you know what else happened he was forgiven, he found redemption at the foot of the cross.
It is true that we should never judge a book by its cover and that we should consider the person within not the person on the outside.
In my career I have often judged people by what I have seen of them but never what I have seen in them. Its is very difficult to do away with the prejudices that we may have but if we are followers of Jesus Christ we have to do that , I have had to do it that.
I believe that God puts us into certain positions so that we can witness things and learn from them. In my two chosen careers so far I have seen two forms of vulnerability first of the sick in hospital people waiting with trepidation for surgery a form of vulnerability and in my other career another form of vulnerability.
I guess that you do not think about it at the time you’re so busy doing your job. If I had known this man when he was trapped by the demons of destructive addiction I may have thought of him differently than what I do now.
God saved this man and now this man does the work that God has apportioned him to do. I praise God for his witness to the weak and the vulnerable to the lost to those whose lives are trapped by the demons of addiction.
I consider this man my friend and I do not give my friendship lightly he’s my brother in Christ Jesus and will be till life on this earth is no more and beyond that. My brother I truly believe that we are refined in the fire and that we go through the struggle in order that we can be better witnesses to those who are going through the struggle now.
God puts us where he wants us and right now he wants you where you are and doing what you do.
May the blessings of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with all of you tonight and everyday henceforth.
This is a bag of blood and I’m sure you would agree with me that it is a precious thing. Indeed without blood circulating around our bodies would die. But look at it again and ask yourself who has it come from.
Has it come from someone who is English, has it come from someone who is Scottish, has it come from someone who is Welsh, has it come from someone who is Irish, has it come from someone who is French, has it came from someone who is German ,has it come from someone who is Italian has it come from someone who is Spanish, has it come from someone who is from Belgium, has it come from someone who is from Holland. The thing is that none of us know.
What I am trying to say here is that we are far less different that some would have us made out to be. Some people for whatever reason like to play upon our differences in order to divide us but the truth is we all bleed and one day we will all die to this life.
The differences that we seem to have are far less important than what we have in common. The things that unite us makes us stronger the things that divide us makes us weaker and able to be picked off by those who would do us harm.
We know that there are many who would divide us, brother from brother, sister from sister, father from son, daughter from mother. They have done that over the last few years but I tell you God doesn’t do that and I tell you why that is so it is because we are one in Christ.
Well I’ve had a strange day today challenging the established church. And gently chastising the atheists.
This is a story which really happened and it’s how I can prove that God exists and it’s how I can prove that God works through ordinary people because I experienced it.
Last year after I had attended an interview at the nazarene theological college I was on the bus coming back to Stockport train station. I was minding my own business when a man whom I have not met before in my life started to strike up a conversation with me. As the conversation progressed I learnt that he went to church in Wythenshawe which is South Manchester.
Now I don’t live in Manchester I live down in Kent and I did not know this man from Adam. Yet there was something strangely warming and comforting about this man. He spoke with compassion and understanding. His knowledge of me was more than I ever admit to anybody else.
He knew that I grew up in a Roman Catholic household, he knew that I had rebelled and became a Salvationist, he knew that when I move from South Wales to Kent I started attending an Anglican church All Saints and was on the Parochial Church Council he knew that when I moved from Chatham to Gillingham I went to another Anglican church and again was on the parochial Church Council,
He knew that I left the anglicans to join the methodists and was studying to be a local preacher, knew about my marital breakdown and he knew that I had become a Nazarene. And as I was getting off the bus his final words to me was God has work for you to do.
I found that experience so amazing that someone who I had never met who had no involvement with the college knew all about me. I truly believe that God uses other people to search other people out.
When I recount that story to anybody I am often met with disbelief. If I had not experienced it I would have probably disbelieved it myself but how can you disbelieve that which has occurred that which is fact. God was working through that individual it is the only way that he could have known all about me because God knows about all of us.
God knows us when we are up and when we’re down. When we are happy or when we are sad. There are two paths laid before us God gives us the choice which one to follow, one path leads to the Kingdom the other path leads to another place that is somewhere which we should avoid for grim death.
Many of you are no doubt watching a bit of television tonight but I wanted to get away from the square box and devote my mind to matters spiritual so I’m reading from the book written by Thomas a kempis “the imitation of Christ” first published in 1470 in Latin and translated into English. John Wesley the founder of the methodist movement was heavily influenced by this book and said that it taught him”that true religion was seated in the heart, and that Gods law extended to all our thoughts as well as words and actions. In 1735 John Wesley published a widely read edition of this book under the title “The Christian Pattern”
It is a beautiful book to read and so spiritually uplifting. The opening line in the first chapter is a direct quotation from our Lord Jesus Christ ” he that followeth me, walketh not In darkness” the first chapter is concerned with how we live our lives as an imitation of Christ and show contempt of all the vanities of the world. I love the language of this book in its use of old English.
In the third chapter titled “of the doctrine of truth” it says these words and I think it has so much meaning
” The more a man is United within himself, and becometh inwardly simple and pure, so much the more and higher things doth he understands without labour; for that he receiveth intellectual light from above.
This book should be a compulsory read for all students of theology and for anyone feeling the call to ministry. As I am reading this book so I am feeling challenged perhaps in a way that I have not been in the past. It has made me reflect on how I have been shrouded in my own conceit and vanity. The Lord is speaking to my heart tonight. For when the grace of God cometh unto a man, then he is made able for all things. And when it goeth away , then he is poor and weak, and as it will left only for the lash and scourge. In this case thou oughest not be distracted, nor to despair; but at God’s will to stand steadily, and whatever comes upon thee, to endure it for the glory of Jesus Christ; for after winter followeth summer, after night the day returneth, and after a tempest a great calm.
There are many who deny God and his son Jesus Christ but I can tell you this evening that the Holy Spirit is working up on my heart it is transformative. Each and all of us who profess a belief in Jesus Christ ought to open our hearts to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and be ye transformed
And may Almighty God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit bless you all this evening.
It seems to me that in relative terms those with the least seem to give the most and those with the most seem to give the least because they are more frightened of losing what they have.
It’s like the parable of the rich young ruler and the parable of the poor widow.
Mark 12:41-44 New International Versions
The Widow’s Offering 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
I cannot articulate this any better it speaks for itself, a poor widow who gave everything to the glory of God why can we not do likewise.
As a Christian socialist I have certain criticisms to make on Marxism as a political ideology. The centrality of Marxism is based on an atheistic notion and for that reason alone I cannot stand full square with Marxist thought.
But putting that aside Marx did understand how capital worked, well how it work for some but not for others. He clearly understood how economic recessions occurred, I think he called it the internal contradictions of capital accumulation.
He talked about ownership in common and clearly he took that from scripture because the second chapter of Acts and the fourth chapter of Acts lead us to that determination. The disciples and the early church believed that if you were part of the community of believers individual ownership of possessions went against the teachings of Christ.
Indeed we read from the second and fourth chapter of Acts that ownership was in common. The community of believers had ownership as a community. The individual was part of that community and each in that community shared whatever they had with others in that community.
They did not say you cannot have it because it’s mine what they did was when they became believers they realised their assets and gave those assets to the community for the relief of suffering and to support those in need..
It really is a challenge in today’s world for us to cast off our individualism we cling to it like scotch mist. What I want to ask you is are you truly happy with your individualism or would you not prefer to be part of a community in which everybody shares with one another.
Even for me that’s a bit of a challenge but I think in the end it is the only way that we are going to see any advancement for the good in society. I just want to ask you today if you have a Bible read the second and fourth chapter of Acts understand it for what it meant in those days and understand it for what it could mean today.
If we try to move away from individualistic lifestyle and more towards a communal lifestyle I think we can solve some of the many problems that we see in today’s society. Firstly homelessness will be done away with, secondly hunger would be done away with, thirdly poverty would be done away with. Now that is what we should be aiming for but we are not there yet I do wonder if we will ever be there.
For me the centrality of God is so important because it frames who I am and it frames my very existence.
The Fellowship of the Believers 42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”.
This portion of scripture taken from the book of the Acts of the Apostles is important it is an exemplar on how a church should be and act. The Church should be communal, ownership should be in common. What good comes of hanging expensive works of arts in episcopal palaces whilst our brothers and sisters are sleeping on the street, whilst people use foodbanks because they have no source of income to purchase food. Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.
Church leaders dressed in finery whilst their poor brothers and sisters are dressed in rags and then they say “We must care for the poor” what hypocrites. Jesus did not say Blessed are the Rich he said Blessed are the poor. The Church today has lost its way and needs to reconnect with the First Church. In all my years of going to church I dont think I’ve heard a sermon on Acts 2 42-47 of even from Acts 4 maybe it might be to challenging. The church has allowed itself to be corrupted on the altar of consumerism. How can it say we should care for the poor when its leaders are living lives of luxury.To be fair to the Archbishop of Canterbury he did roll up his sleeves and cook for some of the less fortunate in the Medway Town.
I think we need to reconnect with the first church then we will see christian revival in this country.